Posted by: colegrove | Saturday 27 September 2008

Happiness

So, today I went with a small group of guys geocaching around the Black Hills of western South Dakota.  Geocaching is a fun outdoor treasure hunting type of game.  Using a hand held GPS device and coordinates found online, you search for boxes or canisters hidden, either around a town, in the woods, or somewhere else challenging to find.  We hike a little less than 4 miles up and down in the woods.  Once we were withing 20 feet, we looked and were given clues from the people who had hid it on postings online.  When one finds a “cache”, there are usually little trinkets inside.  If you take one, you must put one of your own in the cache for the next person to find.  Also sign the “guest book”, if you will.  Very fun, but tiring on the legs.  I’m sure I’ll feel it tomorrow.  We actually went back and found a trail and an old watering trough for horses.  Made from cement, it must have been pretty old.  Odd to be found in the woods like that.  Makes one think of Custer and the pioneers of the mid to late 1800’s.  Wonderfully inspiring.  We had some talk of Templar treasure amongst us, and it lead me to the whole Oak Island mystery.  But that’s all another story, not why I am posting this entry.  The real inspiration for the post is a discussion a study group had on last Tuesday on loneliness.  Now this blog is not about loneliness, it is going to be on the topic of happiness.  There are so many people who seem so unhappy?  Why?   None of these examples I will use are in anyway referring to specific people, they are a mismash of whatever is in my head and may not come out in complete thoughts, so bear with me.   So here goes… maybe my blog should be entitled Rambling, instead of Random, as it’s more rambling incoherently starting… now…

THE QUESTION

What is happiness? Where is it to be found?

I know a young lady who finds her happiness in relationships. This is vain. She needs a male companion, or else she falls into despair. After she broke up with her boyfriend, she immediatley, within a few days, was engaged to a father and married man. Rebound I guess. By the end of that week she had completely planned the wedding and had the dress. Determined it would work and ignoring advice, she ended up falling to pieces again when in a few months he broke it off.

This continuous cycle of finding happiness and self-worth in others is misleading and destructive.

Then there are others who will continually seek promotions in the corporate world and run after the “almighty dollar”. Those who seek money to be satisfied at the expense of their own souls.

REAL HAPPINESS BEGINS WITH…

It is my belief that we can only have those things that we want (e.g. love, companionship, money, success, etc.), when we are first both happy and contented with who we are. Not seeking to find our value in others, but realizing we are valuable just as we are. Finding that confidence within ourselves is the first key to happiness. Being at peace with ourselves.  Why dwell on unhappy things?  Why not see the bigger picture?

Perhaps the word contented that I used above is not completely correct. If one is contented completely they will never grow. But contented in the way that they do not need to find happiness thru external things.

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

In fact, there is no reason not to be happy if one so chooses.  I know that may be a simplistic way to put it.  Maybe you think, “maybe for him“.  Perhaps.  I’m not saying I am always happy.  But in a way it may come down to how we look at events and our lives.  Sometimes we may be unhappy because of events or happenstance.  Problems and sadness will always enter our lives.  We can either let problems define us, or we can take the problem in our hands and deal with it or adapt to it.  Don’t be a victim of circumstance, but rise above the circumstance.  There is nothing holing you back.

It was Napoleon Hill who said “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.  Interesting quote.  His interesting best-seller, Think & Grow Rich, is much recommended.  I haven’t read the full version, but listened to an abridged audio book with actual clips of him speaking.   His story of his son being born without ears and what he told the doctors is quite moving.  Even when it seems like there’s nothing one can do, people do not have to let the problems of their lives define them.  Overcome them.

SPIRITUAL PEACE

The next step is more spiritual. There may be many (Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Muslim, etc.) who may come across this site. My own belief is that there is one way to find happiness and peace. You may all not agree on this next one, but whomever you are, hear me out momentarily:

Seeing who we are in light of our creator. Realizing our weaknesses and faults or sins that separate us from God. A turned heart to God that then takes in the fact of his infinite love to his creation, that came in one man, will result in a changed heart that has the peace that only He can give, as we lean on Him.

It is a sobering message of the value of each individual in the eyes of God.  How precious each of us, even unbelievers, are.  The lengths he went to show us that love.  And the strength his Spirit brings when we trust in him in storms.

Now, not everyone believes this. That is fine. The peace I speak of here is something that no church, no person, no philosophy can bring. However, at the very least, if one ponders the first part to finind happiness, I am sure most will agree that we need to be secure in our own minds and selves before we ever try to find happiness and fulfillment in others.

Besides, being human entails failures. When we are let down by mere man, whether a family member or our “other half”, we can either get over it with the knowledge that our happiness was not based on that person, or we can fall into despair and disarray because we were so crushed – having all our hope in that person.

Let’s not worry about whether this person, or that person “likes” us, instead let’s try to like ourselves, and then go out and like others for who they are.

DO WE AT TIMES BRING ABOUT OUR OWN UNHAPPINESS?

What do we see and how much do we see of it?

What do we see and how much do we see of it?

In fact, many if not most of our sadnesses and problems can enter our lives because of (1) our own choices and decision, and (2) because of how we react to things and think of things, problems, etc. when they come our way.

Example 1: In the year 1700, a mythical man on a South Carolina plantation picks up smoking.  He smokes from age 14 until age 65.  Then he gets emphysema and lung cancer and dies.  Before he dies, he cries out, “Oh why?  Why me?”  Perhaps medical science at that time did not realize the harmful effects of smoke, the addiction of nicotine, or the tar that is produced.  But just because he didn’t know about why he was sick, doesn’t mean it was happenstance or random chance that he died, but unknowingly caused by his own actions.  Perhaps that’s how cancer or heart disease is triggered.  We don’t have a definite reason why people get these things, in particular (well, we do know some links to why, but…), but maybe it’s something we are doing now that causes it, that one day we’ll understand.

Example 2: We decide to drop out of high school to pursue our own immediate desires, instead of the longer-term happiness. The whole Dave Ramsay quote from last posting.  Then we work at a dead-end job all of our lives making not much more than minimum wage.  Hmm… consequences.  Maybe if the person finnished school and were exposed to more things and opportunities by a different decision, the would have a better paying job they love to do, where they can be free to express themselves in their work.  Maybe they’d meet someone else that they will be happy with for the rest of their lives.  Or perhaps the relationship they have now will grow stronger by events happening differently by continuing education.

Example 3: A hurricane destroys our home and shuts down our job, for good.  We have no way to live – according to how we see our situation – and become depressed.  Of course it is a terrible thing and we have reason to be sad.  But to remain in that state for very long may be unnecessary.  We may think at that momemt we have nothing left.  Do we?  Let’s say we have some friends or cousins who live “up north” from Louisiana where we can stay.  Then we can always buck up and plan to rebuild (hopefully in a safer location), and find a job, or start our own creative way to make money.  I know it sounds cheesy, and it’s easier said than done, and I haven’t been in that situation, but there are other ways out.  There is a bigger picture that we aren’t looking at, as long as we rise above our situation.  The storms of life will always rage and sometimes they will strike deep.  A loved one dying.  A child with a disease.  Life will happen.  Do not despair.

Going up to the spiritual lesson, Jesus said,

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33.

Interesting to note that the Geneva commentary says here:

“That in me you might be thoroughly quieted. For by “peace” is meant here that quiet state of mind which is completely contrary to disquietness and great sadness.”

Hope - there is always Hope

Hope - there is always Hope

More partial Fixes: But there is almost always a loop hole, a way to fix the situation, i.e. the person could get their GED and return to college, even if it’s a small one that will accept them.  The problem with that, though, is that it may not be a complete fix.  A GED is not the same as a Diploma.  When someone is looking to hire someone, they probably will look at the GED and think, this person didn’t even complete high school, and hire someone else.  Same with the smoking example.  One may finally realize the mistake they made in smoking, quit, but they still have the pains of emphysema.  The point is to not get into bad situations in the first place, and think outside one’s own circumstances, to the results both long and short term as to any course of action.

Note: Now, I am not against smoking in the fact that I’m libertarian leaning and think cities banning it is an infringment on personal rights, but for health reasons I do not smoke myself, as I think it not health inducing.  Also there is no moral reason against smoking, unless one thinks of the virtue of keeping ones body clean and healthy, or the vice of any addiction.  Other than that, there is no other unethical reason, I just use this as an example.

WE LIVE IN A BOX WITH BLINDERS ON

We tend to see things from a box.  We are trapped in a box.  Our view of life and the world around us is colored by the blinders we have on.  Horses wear blinders sometimes, so the rider can keep the horse focused only on what is ahead of him, so the horse cannot get distracted or spooked as easily.  We likewise have blinders on that will not allow us to see anything but what is right there in front of us most of the time.

This is especially evident in teenagers and people who becomes depressed easily.  I am not one who gets depressed often.   There are times, however, when I just seem to be “down”.  It’s usually on Saturday afternoons when I have nothing to do.  I’d say about 2 times per year this happens, and lasts for an hour or two.  Not too bad, except while it’s happening.  Like all the junk and hopelessness of the world comes on me.  I only see myself where I am at that moment.  If I were to take a step back, and see that I probably just need a nap or something, and look at what I have to do the week ahead, I relax.  I take off the blinders.

Do we have blinders on?

I know there are many people, teenagers in particular, who struggle with depression.  They may be “in love”

with a boyfriend or girlfriend and only see their situation from their viewpoint.  Nothing else matters: not school, not college, not friends or family.  Just them, being together.  A mythical future awaits.  Sounds good, except that they have blinders on.  I knew a guy once who barely made it into college because he thought he couldn’t leave his girlfriend.  It was mentioned that there is a whole world away from home, yet to be discovered.  That he may not always be with that girl.  To no avail.  Of course right as college was about to start they broke up, and he realized he wanted to go to college, and barely scraped in before classes.  His whole world changed when he went there, because he got to see more of the world.  And there is yet more world to be seen, more people to meet beyond those college doors as well.

Everyone needs advice.  Not always to accept that advice, but needs to hear it, because it shows that person a different view, a different perspective that he or she may not be able to see rightly.  The more views one gets on a specific situation the more complete the picture will be to the person who is in it.

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

Feelings and emotions have a major role in how the blinders fit on our heads.  When we experience intense emotions: romantic ones, angry ones, depressed ones, adventurous ones, etc.  We associate certain things with those emotions that we experienced when we had the emotions in the first place.  These can be a hinderance at times when we need to think outside the box, to look outside our circumstances and see that emotion and feeling can be misleading and deceptive to where the road we are walking on may be headed.

I know most of this is mumbo-jumbo.  Ignore me, if it’s completely “out there” and unintelligible.  It’s hard for me to always express what is coming out of my head, but the reason I write this is two-fold.  (1) Many are unhappy needlessly, and may be helped by looking outside their circumstances to the future that awaits them.  (2) How much of what we know is actually true?  Are we (pick any topic, situation, etc.) actually seeing what we think we are seeing?  Believing what is true?  We must always look and think before we act, not be guided by societal guidelines.  Or friend-guidelines, either?  Peer pressure is powerful.  Many wartime atrocities occur, because people leave their judgments aside when they get in a group of people who all begin to do things they wouldn’t.  It’s how gangs operate.

Anyway, even if you don’t care for the two paragraphs of spiritual thoughts, please at least think of my other comments on happiness.  What are your opinions?

Please, anyone out there, feel free to post comments on this quickly put together blog entry! 🙂  Or help me find better ways to say what I am trying to say.

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